Tennessee continued its march of dominance this weekend by sweeping the No. 1 team in the country, Ole Miss, by a combined score of 26-7.
GAME 1: VOLS WIN 12-1
Tennessee’s Friday-night games oughta be must-watch TV for Vol fans, because UT’s freshman pitcher Chase Burns is really, really good.
Burns was his usual, dynamic self Friday. He took a perfect-game bid into the 5th and finished his night with 11 Ks in seven innings of work. He surrendered zero walks, two hits and just one run in 106 pitches.
burns filthy off-speed + requisite fixing of cap pic.twitter.com/c3BzOdbWOS— RockyTopTalk (@RockyTopTalk) March 26, 2022
The Ole Miss batters got an up-close look at Burns’ mid-to-high 90s fastball/ mid-to-high 80s slider combination that’s befuddled hitters all year. Against Texas, the slider was Burns’ primary ‘out’ pitch, and you can see above it was working in Oxford, too.
Burns is now 5-0 for the season, and there seems to be a level of comfort building between Burns, Tony Vitello and pitching coach Frank Anderson. After throwing 70, 74 and 81 pitches in his first three starts, Burns has gone 101, 92 and 106 in his last three starts as he and the coaches have gotten him stretched out and used to going deeper into games.
I don’t know what the rest of the season will look like, but if you haven’t watched Burns pitch live yet this season, I suggest you get to it.
The Tennessee bats did their best to make things easy on Burns — they turned back-to-back walks of Drew Gilbert and Trey Lipscomb into multiple runs. Evan Russell scored Gilbert on a single, then Cortland Lawson belted a triple off the outfield wall that scored three. After that, Jared Dickey cleared the bases with a two-run HR that put the Vols up 6-0.
UT added three more runs in the 5th when Lipscomb drove in Jordan Beck and Gilbert with a three-run home run.
After the game, Ole Miss pitcher Dylan DeLucia said his team “took [the Vols] lightly,” and that “it won’t happen again,” on Saturday. He even went so far as to call his shot, as if talking around it wasn’t enough to rile up the Vols. “We will win tomorrow,” DeLucia said.
GAME 2: VOLS WIN 10-3
It took all of four batters for Tennessee to get on the board Saturday, as leadoff man Seth Stephenson got hit by a pitch, stole second and advanced to third on an error before Gilbert knocked him home with a double. Lipscomb scored Gilbert with a single immediately after, and Vols’ pitcher Chase Dollander had a 2-0 lead before he stepped on the mound.
Dollander’s season’s been maybe a bit overshadowed by how good freshmen Burns and Drew Beam have been, but Dollander leads the team in strikeouts and had maybe his best outing of the season Saturday. He struck out 10 through 6.1 innings and allowed just three hits, one walk and zero runs.
Chase Dollander, 8th and 9th Ks thru 5.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 27, 2022
The Vols pitching staff is pic.twitter.com/TQoQ7dhrNV
After the quick start, the Vols added another run in the second inning and then five more in the fourth and fifth innings. Tennessee plated two more in the eighth inning, which Ole Miss matched, thanks to a Lipscomb error on a two-out play that UM followed with a home run off flame-throwing reliever Ben Joyce. Something to keep an eye on: the Vols made three errors on Saturday, two on Friday and one on Sunday. That’s not great, Bob.
Freshman Wyatt Evans came in and shut the door Saturday by striking out two of the four batters he faced to end the game.
GAME 3: VOLS WIN 4-3
I reckon Sunday’s game was the most interesting to a non-biased observer, as it was the only game in the series that Tennessee didn’t run away with. Both teams went through three innings scoreless, and then Gilbert cracked a three-run triple into the right-field corner that scored Stephenson and Beck. Gilbert scored on the next batter off a Lipscomb sacrifice.
Sunday meant it was Drew Beam’s turn on the mound, and he did what he’s been doing every Sunday recently. He needed just 90 pitches to go 7.1 innings and struck out six while surrendering just three hits, no walks and one run.
Even with a lighter-than-recent output from the bats, Ole Miss didn’t make it a game until it scored three runs in the eighth inning. Beam got one out and allowed a hit before Vitello brought in Camden Sewell. Sewell immediately gave up another base hit and then a 3-run home run that trimmed Tennessee’s lead to just one run. Vitello gave Sewell the hook in favor of closer Redmond Walsh. Walsh got two strikeouts to end the eighth, but then gave up a hit to the first batter in the ninth. Two strikeouts and a Tennessee fielding error later, and Ole Miss has a runner in scoring position and the tying run at the plate. Walsh struck the final batter out on three pitches.
Walsh finished the day with five Ks in just 1.1 innings and struck out the side in the ninth.
what a 9th inning by Redmond Walsh— RockyTopTalk (@RockyTopTalk) March 27, 2022
strikes out 3 and finishes of Tennessee's sweep of Ole Miss pic.twitter.com/8GdQfsmYah
Tennessee’s main three starting pitchers haven’t yet taken a loss and are a combined 14-0 for the year (5-0 (Burns), 4-0 (Dollander) and 5-0 (Beam)). There are so many college baseball polls that I can’t keep up with all of them, but I’d say there’s a good chance most of them have the Vols at No. 1 come next week.
This series against Ole Miss was the start of Tennessee’s run through the SEC gauntlet. The Vols head to Vanderbilt for three games next weekend followed by matchups at home against Missouri and Alabama before traveling to Gainesville in late April.